In France’s media there has only been one topic in the past few days: who will stay, who will go, who will be replaced by whom? In the country’s history, no president has taken as long to form a government as Emmanuel Macron has for his second-term team.
A full four weeks after Macron’s re-election, Alexis Kohler, Secretary General of the Elysee Palace, finally announced the names of those who will form France’s new government on Friday afternoon. You could have saved yourself the excited impatience.
Twelve ministers from the old team either retain their posts or move up the hierarchy. Macron relies on proven staff, especially in the most important ministries. The composition of the three most important posts in the government remains unchanged.
The most important man on the government bench is and remains Economics Minister Bruno Le Maire. The fact that Le Maire knows his former counterpart, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz well, may have played a decisive role in this decision. Mutual trust can be useful in future negotiations. In view of the economic crisis and possible financial or budget reforms within the European Union, Macron is obviously relying on someone with many years of experience who also speaks German and has a short connection to the Chancellery.
Interior Minister Gérard Darmanin and Justice Minister Eric Dupont-Moretti both retain their posts. The central pillars of the new government are therefore those of the old one. Only one important post goes to a woman: Catherine Colonna, already Europe Minister and government spokeswoman under President Jacques Chirac, will be the new foreign minister. She is ambassador in London, where she managed the Brexit crisis. Great challenges await the experienced diplomat with the war in Ukraine.
If you count the head of government, the new government has an equal number of 14 male and 13 female ministers. With Elisabeth Borne, the President appointed his Labor and Social Affairs Minister as Prime Minister earlier this week. The president is counting on continuity with both Borne’s appointment and the rest of the team.
After two male prime ministers from the conservative camp, the signal from the new government is mainly limited to this message: the prime minister is a woman and she comes from the left. Thirty years after Edith Cresson, she is only the second woman to hold this position. The latter had commented on Borne’s appointment by saying that it was not the country that was sexist, but France’s political class.
The lack of surprise effects is surprising given the fact that Macron had announced on the evening of the election that he would change everything during his second term, including himself and his authoritarian style of government. Borne is more a technocrat than a politician and is expected to carry out the President’s ideas without resistance and show great assertiveness in doing so.
Macron commissioned them with the “ecological planned economy”. Borne should turn France into a “great ecological” nation, as Macron put it on election night. Two women stand by her side. Amélie de Montchalin, a Macronist from the very beginning, previously Minister for Cooperation with Parliament, will become Minister for Ecological Transition and Territorial Cohesion.
The name of the office indicates that de Montchalin should reconcile the radical environmental course with the concerns and existential concerns of the rural population. This was neglected in 2018 when the yellow vest crisis broke out after the eco-tax on petrol was introduced. Agnès Pannier-Runacher is responsible for the energy transition.
Political observers mainly look at the political algebra. Macron had announced that he wanted to make his second term not only more ecological, but also more social. Unlike the governments of Edouard Philippe and Jean Castex, both previously from the Conservative family, this government should be recruited more from the Social Democrat roster – a concession to the many left-wing voters who only voted for Macron, around Marine Le Pen to prevent.
Although the head of government did not have a party membership with the Parti Socialiste (PS), she is considered a social democrat. The more left wing of the government includes Europe Minister Clément Beaune, Budget Minister Gabriel Attal and Budget Minister Olivier Dussopt. But all the heavyweights come from Les Républicains (LR), the sister party of the CDU.
While Macron relied on civil society for his first team, he prefers to rely on experienced politicians or technocrats for this second term. Only one nomination caused a stir: the historian Pap Ndiaye, brother of the writer Marie Ndiaye, became Minister of Education and Youth.
Ndiaye’s predecessor, Michel Blanquer, had angered teachers and students with unfortunate reforms. An intellectual should now apparently calm the waves. Ndiaye has a relaxed relationship with the cancel culture. The specialist in American social history advocates neither overestimating nor underestimating the movement.